There have been several recent reports regarding where the world is heading and the huge challenges humankind will face if we don’t get our act together. However, when I think about the imminent tasks at hand, I realise we have a far better chance to act like responsible global citizens with the new decision-making powers we’ll gain in an independent Scotland.
Yes, solving climate chance, inequality and water and energy crises are shared global problems, but the prospect of seriously tackling any one of these threats while remaining part of the UK paradigm is bleak at best. Allow me to explain.
Last month a study part-funded by Nasa warned that our unsustainable resource consumption and economic inequality could lead our civilisation to collapse. We are all now very familiar with the shocking statistic that the UK is the fourth most unequal country in the developed world, which is a huge cause of concern. Looking specifically at wealth disparity north of the border, one in six Scots – some 870,000 – live in poverty, according to Scotland’s Outlook – a joint campaign by charities including Macmillan, Shelter Scotland and Oxfam.
Having such a huge number of people suffering in our so-called ‘great nation’ – and not making solving this atrocity a top priority – should be a crystal clear sign that the Union is failing vast swathes of its population. Without being able to elect the government of our choosing, which would wield the decision-making powers of any normal European country, there’s little hope of tackling poverty within Scotland.
Another imminent global threat is the unsustainable growth of water and energy use, to the point that fresh water resources will become scarce in all regions of the globe, according to the UN’s World Water Development Report (WWDR). The report, released to coincide with World Water Day, highlights that since so many forms of energy production require huge amounts of water, an energy crisis will swiftly follow a water shortage, and vice versa.
As Ban Ki-moon puts it in the foreword of the report:
“Water and energy are inextricably linked. Water is essential for the production, distribution and use of energy. Energy is crucial for the extraction and delivery of safe drinking water – and for the very safety of water itself.”
So how does the report suggest we avoid such a crisis? By turning to renewable sources of energy, of course. Specifically sources that don’t rely so heavily on fresh water. Unsurprisingly, so-called ‘fracking’, a process that has been earmarked for many parts of the UK, is not a viable solution, as the report highlights:
“Uncertainties persist over the potential risks to water quality, human health and long-term environmental sustainability from the development of unconventional sources of gas (‘fracking’) and oil (‘tar sands’), both of which require large quantities of water.”
Unconventional gas exploration company Cuadrilla Resources this month announced that the volatile process of fracking could begin within four years if national state of emergency is declared in the Ukraine. Is this really how we will prepare for a fuel crisis? And, how many people must be in fuel poverty before we decide to act?
More than a quarter of Scottish homes suffered fuel poverty in 2012. In such an energy-rich country, this is appalling. Meanwhile, those in fuel poverty spend more than 10% of their net income on fuel, according to the BBC. With 25% of Europe’s offshore wind resources, 25% of Europe’s tidal potential and 10% of its wave potential, it’s unfathomable that any Scot should live in fuel poverty, and that we allow such risky methods of fossil fuel extraction to maintain our reliance on these finite resources.
We worry about the costs of renewable sources, but are our bills from conventional sources getting any cheaper? We’re only putting off the inevitable. Surely it’s time to cut the umbilical cord of fossil fuels and prepare for the future today?
I always find it astounding that both sides of the debate spend so long arguing about oil and gas: How many billions of pounds of oil remain in depths of our North Sea? Is there enough for fifty years, or are we running dry? Whatever the argument, it is neither a shortage nor a surplus that will be the main problem in the long-term future of an independent Scotland. It will be what we will replace it with, how we will use it to tackle fuel poverty and how we use full control of economic levers to dissolve the current crippling inequality.
Anyway, the final and most recent warning that has dominated my thoughts comes from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which stressed that the effects of climate change will be “severe, pervasive and irreversible.”
By voting Yes on September 18th, I believe that we can begin building a better, fairer society, one that focuses on tackling the real, observable problems of climate change, energy and water resources and inequality.
Scotland can’t save the world alone, but we can help to set an example of how renewables can be used effectively to the benefit of a whole country, and how inequality can be tackled with local powers for the benefit of all. We must take these warnings seriously – and the first step is voting Yes.
Jamie Mann is a Freelance Journalist, Copywriter and Bassist, contributor for National Collective, and is currently co-writing a book on the social media paradigm.
Image from Ian Britton